ANKARA ø Turkey's military has won a battle to quash a law meant to
faciliate the entry of Islamic students into university and civil service.
Turkish President Ahmet Sezer vetoed an education reform bill that would
pave the way for Islamic seminary students to enter universities and
government. Sezer said on May 28 that the legislation ø which also reduced
the military's role in higher education ø would encourage youngsters to
attend religious schools and violate the secular principles of Turkey.
"The president found the law to be partially inappropriate and returned
it to parliament," a presidential statement said.
The military has blamed state-operated religious schools for spawning
Islamic insurgency groups and their supporters, Middle East Newsline reported. Senior commanders have
accused Islamic groups of trying to infiltrate the army and government
"It is a fact, however, that the number of students who attend such
schools is excessive even today," Sezer said in a 19-page decision.
"Permitting graduates of religious schools to benefit from the same rights
of university education as graduates of general high schools does not comply
with the principles of secularism. Legislation that does not comply with the
state's objectives and reasons for existence and which is passed only
because of a parliamentary majority has an adverse impact on the conscience
of the society."
A presidential spokesman said Sezer had "partially vetoed" the
legislation. The spokesman said the president asked parliament to reconsider
four articles of the law as part of an effort to ensure that it would not
violate the constitution.
The legislation was overwhelmingly supported by the ruling pro-Islamic
and Development Party, headed by Prime Minister Recep Erdogan. Erdogan
had attended a religious school.
Under the bill, graduates of religious vocational schools ø established
by the state to train Muslim clerics ø would be granted equal access to
universities. Currently, religious school students obtain degrees in
divinity studies and do not have enough credits for university. With
university degrees, Islamic students would be able to enter public service.
Sezer's veto did not kill the legislation. Parliament could pass the
bill again, which would force the president to sign the legislation into law
or refer the issue to the constitutional court. If parliament revises the
bill, Sezer could later impose a veto.
"There is no need to push through some issues and destabilize the
country," Deputy Prime Minister Abdullatif Sener said. "Turkey has more
important issues. This issue is neither our, nor the imam-hatips [religious
Last week, Turkish Deputy Chief of Staff Gen. Ilker Basbug warned
against creeping Islamization in Turkey. He stressed that secularism was the
key to democracy.
"Secularism is the main driving force in development of democracy in
Turkey," Basburg said. "The principle of secularism is the milestone of all
values forming the republic of Turkey."